Years have gone by since any new piece of writing has appeared by Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin. But on Friday night, someone claiming to be Nakomoto published 21 pages of new material—a sneak preview, allegedly, of a book about the cryptocurrency’s origins.
The excerpt appeared at 11:45 p.m., on a website, NakamotoFamilyFoundation.org, anonymously purchased three days ago via Amazon’s domain registrar. A proxy also established contact with WIRED on the self-proclaimed Nakamoto’s behalf.
Ever since bitcoin’s anonymous creation, numerous people have come forward claiming to be Nakamoto; online conspiracy theories and journalistic investigations have fingered one Satoshi after another. A widely debunked 2014 Newsweek magazine article pointed to a Japanese-American man in California; in 2015, WIRED reported that Australian academic Craig Wright “was either the inventor of Bitcoin … or a hoaxer.” Wright continues to push that he’s Nakamoto, even tweeting Friday in a cryptic message that he would soon prove it and, over the weekend, tweeting without elaboration that the “new” Nakamoto writings were a fraud: “Nakamotofamilyfoundation cannot get the dates nor technical details correct.”
In all that time, no one has proven themselves to be Nakamoto to the satisfaction of the members of the cryptographic community that helped give birth to bitcoin. As skeptics in the cryptography community have repeatedly pointed out, the true Satoshi ought to have access to the cryptographic keys that control the first bitcoins—coins that have stayed put for a decade. If someone purporting to be Nakamoto were to move one of those coins to a different address or sign something with keys that only Satoshi has, that would be a pretty good form of verification.
This new Nakamoto—who still does not want his real identity revealed—declined to move any coins or sign anything with his own keys. “He” (if it is a him) is not, according to information provided to WIRED, any of the three leading Nakamoto suspects: Wright, Nick Szabo, or Dorian Nakamoto, the person identified previously by Newsweek.
WIRED reached out to several members of the early bitcoin community in an attempt to verify the authenticity of the excerpt—and came back, as has happened every time Satoshi Nakamoto is sighted in the wild, with inconclusive answers.
Bitcoin, He Wrote
The excerpt, which this Nakamoto describes as a “short story,” includes a cryptogram that he says reveals the title of his forthcoming book. The simple numbers-for-letters substitution yields the words “Honne and Tatamae,” a transliteration of a Japanese phrase meant to convey the contrast between a person’s private feelings and their public behavior. Similarly, the excerpt is entitled “Duality.”
The text of the excerpt contains a smattering of potentially new, identifying details. Nakamoto describes his mother is an author (“albeit small circulation”) and his grandmother as the founder of a very small publishing company. At age 14, he writes, he was drawn into the cypherpunk community, “where anonymity was as fundamental as breathing.” He says he was in his 20s when he began posting about bitcoin while working as a university researcher in a lab, and that he came up with the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto because it was the Japanese “equivalent of ‘John Smith’”—though he all but confirms that he is not Japanese.
The author devotes considerable space in the new excerpt to explaining his desire for privacy, describing how he ran the network on his own computers using anonymizing software. He notes, though, that he forgot one detail in shielding his identity: time stamps. “Some were intuitive enough to graph together the hours in which I would post…
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